Last season was yet another memorable campaign, both in Canada and the United States, for one of racing’s most accomplished horsemen. Attfield was a force at Woodbine, sending out 41 winners from 205 starts. Thirteen of his overall 21 stakes scores in 2010 came at Woodbine, including the Grade II Dance Smartly Stakes with Mekong Melody, the Grade II Canadian Stakes with Miss Keller (Ire) and the Grade II Seagram Cup with Sand Cove.
Miss Keller (Ire) and Sand Cove, along with stakes winner Impossible Time, all won Sovereign Awards in 2010 which made for a busy night at the ceremony for Attfield on April 1 at Woodbine. “I really don’t know what to say, it’s terrific” said Attfield upon accepting his trophy. “I certainly want to thank my assistants Nancy Sullivan, Sarah Sullivan and Suzanne Lorimer.”
Impossible Time, an Ontario-sired homebred for Charles Fipke, is an example of how superior Attfield is at his craft. A rugged mare who was always high of the list of talents for the trainer, had endured a chip in the knee as a juvenile and a litany of other minor ailments that continually started and stopped her career. Once primed and polished by Attfield by 2010, the mare swept through the Ontario-sired older mare ranks and collected a Sovereign.
South of the border, Attfield trainees were equally impressive. His Musketier won the Grade III Elkhorn one day after Lady Shakespeare took the Grade III Bewitch. In October, Ave came up roses in the Grade III Flower Bowl Invitational.
None of those numbers were a surprise to anyone familiar with the champion conditioner. Attfield’s accomplishments are simply stunning.
His eight Queen’s Plate winners are Norcliffe, 1976; Market Control, 1987; With Approval, 1989; Izvestia, 1990; Alydeed, 1992; Peteski, 1993; Regal Discovery, 1995; and Not Bourbon, 2008. Three of them (With Approval, Izvestia and Peteski) went on to win Triple Crowns. Attfield has won the Breeders’ Stakes, third leg in the Canadian Triple Crown, on eight occasions and the Oaks, Canada’s top race for three year-old Canadian-bred fillies three times (Playlist, 1986; Plenty of Sugar, 1994, Capdiva, 1997).
He has also conditioned six Horses-of-the-Year. In addition to the Triple Crown winners, Norcliffe, Play the King and Alywow were also accorded that honour, among his numerous Sovereign winners, far too long a list to note. The Nobleton resident was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1999.
Born November 18, 1939 in Newbury, England, Attfield was an accomplished show-jump rider and amateur steeplechase jockey before immigrating to Canada in 1970. In the last decade, Attfield has trained dozens of stakes winners and champions such as Poetically, Palladio plus stakes winner Pellegrino, an old timer who gave Attfield his 300th stakes winner in 2006.
In 2009, Attfield won his seventh Sovereign Award as Canada’s Most Outstanding Trainer. He finished fourth in the Woodbine standings with 52 wins and captured stakes with 12 different horses, including Palladio, Hollinger and Perfect Shower. Boasting more than 350 stakes winners, nearly 1,700 victories and almost $85 million in career purse earnings, the man with back-to-back Sovereigns as the country’s top trainer will look to add to those numbers in 2011.
And if the past is an accurate barometer of what’s in store for Attfield, a Sovereign natural hat trick is certainly well within his grasp.